TC student serves on MCC regional board

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Board membership provides Sanchez with leadership experience

By Bailey Kaufman, updated by Connie Faber

Sierra Sanchez

Sierra Sanchez has enjoyed a life filled with unique experiences. Born and raised in Thailand as the daughter of missionaries, she has traveled to 17 countries and speaks three languages. This year, Sanchez has added “board of director appointee” to her list of accomplishments.

Sanchez, a junior at Tabor College, is serving as the college’s student representative on the Men­nonite Central Committee Central States Board of Directors.

MCC Central States is one of four U.S. regional organizations under the umbrella of Mennonite Central Com­mittee, a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that “shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice,” according to mcc.org.

MCC Central States covers 16 states, running from North Dakota to Texas and from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, including the state of Mississippi. Approximately 450 Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren and Brethren in Christ congregations are in the region.

When MCC Central States board members wanted to incorporate more youth into their board, they contacted the three Mennonite colleges in the region—Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., and Hesston College in Hesston, Kan.—and asked professors to suggest a student representative to serve on the board. Sanchez, who is studying English and secondary education, was nominated by her English professor, Christopher Dick.

Sanchez went through an interview process before being offered a position on the board as Tabor’s representative. Sanchez, along with Abraham Matteo, representing Hesston, and Austin Regier, from Bethel, has attended the September 2016 and February 2017 board meetings.

“The college students have brought the voice of the church and faith-based organizations, and they’re representing the present and future of both,” says Michelle Armster, Central States executive director. “Their insight, wisdom and perspective has made us stop and reflect on what they’re sharing. The church is diverse and this is another way for us to live with the reality of our diversity.”

During meetings, the 16 board members approve budgets and hear reports from people who are working in the Central States region and internationally, Sanchez says.

“I really love the welcoming atmosphere that the board has,” says Sanchez.

Even though she is a young member of the board, Sanchez feels she is a valued member of the group, and that she is heard. “They do a lot of going around the circle, and everyone has to share,” she says. “They do want quieter people to have a chance. I really like that because it gives me the opportunity to say something.”

Sanchez says she enjoys the diversity on the board, a group she describes as one that “captures God’s diversity in his creation.”

She says, “I’ve heard a lot of negative stats about boards being mainly Caucasian and male. But this board is pretty much split evenly female and male, and there were more people of color than there were Caucasian people. I like being on a board that represents a lot of cultures.”

Serving on the MCC Central States Board is helping Sanchez develop her skills as a leader. “Being on the board has also helped me find my voice as a leader,” she says. “I am naturally a more reserved person, but this experience has pushed me to be more vocal about my opinions.”

The experience is also helping her see the bigger picture, she says. “I have learned all about the many different parts that make the organization run smoothly,” she says. “It has shown me how taking care of small details is important for ensuring success as a whole. I have also learned a lot about different Anabaptist denominations apart from Mennonite Brethren. I love how we are able to put aside theological differences and come together for the greater good of serving others.”

Deborah Penner, San­chez’s English professor and adviser, believes Sanchez’s heart for international ministry makes her a good fit for the MCC Central States Board of Directors.

“(The board) is a good place for her to direct some of her energies,” Penner says. “Sierra has a really strong commitment to Christ, and she is a person who likes to put feet to her faith.”

Penner believes it is important for Tabor faculty members to encourage their students to find their place in the church and church organizations. “Even if you’re a young person, you can contribute so much,” Penner says.

Once Sanchez graduates in spring 2018, she hopes to use her degree to teach overseas, especially in more restricted areas.

“In places like the Middle East, a teaching license can open doors that other careers don’t have allowance with,” she says. “I want to teach English to non-native speakers because that opens up a lot of opportunities for them.”

Sanchez has been asked to serve a second year on the MCC Central States board and will be attending October 2017 board meetings in Akron, Pa., where MCC headquarters are located.

Bailey Kaufman is Tabor College senior and wrote this story as part of her internship with the Hillsboro (Kan.) Free Press. This article is reprinted with permission.

Photo credit: Vance Frick/Tabor College

 

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